Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Darrell Bock on Acts
This morning, I attended an ETS lecture by Darrell Bock, "Contemporary Claims on Ancient Historiography and Acts: Hengel or Penner: Which Model for Acts is Better?" This session dealt with the historical value of the book of Acts. Conservative scholars like Martin Hengel often point out that Luke imitates the style of ancient historians like Thucidydes and Xenophon, even writing an introduction much like standard introductions to ancient histories. This suggests that Luke was a careful historian like other ancient Greek historians. But Penner wrote a book pointing out that these "careful Greek historians" often were more interested in rhetoric or moralizing, calling their objectivity into question. Penner's conclusion is that Luke is like these other historians, and thus he is so interested in defending Christianity that he is not an objective historian. According to Bock, Penner's attack on Luke's historical value is worth paying attention to, becaue Penner does careful work in both Acts and in the work of ancient historians. Bock thinks there are two ways to address this: a) scholars need to carefully work through the works of ancient historians to address their level of objectivity and factuality; b) on the basis of careful study in both Acts and other ancient historians, demonstrate that is possible for a historian like Luke to be factual even while having rhetorical, political or ideological goals.